We lead this selection of letters, as did the Guardian, with a disingenuous letter from the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev. Two responses a few days later took it apart. Also, a selection of others that the Guardian published. Another, with over 600 signatures, has yet to appear….

Antisemitism on the left and Jeremy Corbyn

Israeli ambassador Mark Regev and other readers respond to recent articles on an issue that has dominated recent headlines

Owen Jones’s contribution to the discussion of left antisemitism (Labour’s mission is to transform Britain. It can’t let bigotry get in the way, 4 April) tackles several important issues, yet overlooks the elephant in the room: the obsessive and irrational hatred of the Jewish state.

When pro-Palestinian social media pages are awash with anti-Jewish vitriol, including neo-Nazi type Holocaust denial, we are looking at raw antisemitism dressed up as political concern.

When Zionists are portrayed as a sinister and malevolent influence on British democracy, we see a modern manifestation of that same ancient hatred.

When activists who have never called for a boycott of any of the Middle East’s many dictatorships embrace a boycott of the region’s only democracy, this is far more than just a double standard.

When British leftists proclaim solidarity not with their comrades on the Israeli left but with the homophobic, misogynistic and racist Islamists who seek to destroy Israel and murder its citizens, something is seriously wrong.

When parts of the left relentlessly vilify the modern Jewish state – the “collective Jew” – this is a contemporary expression of a lasting prejudice that has been labelled the “socialism of fools”.

Owen Jones experienced this irrational hatred first-hand when he was alleged to be “in the pay of the Israeli government”. It is time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room.
Mark Regev
Israel’s ambassador to the UK

 

Jonathan Freedland (Antisemitism matters: Jews are the canary in the coalmine, 31 March) acknowledges that there is a “strong case that plenty are acting in bad faith, trying to use this [antisemitism] issue as a stick to beat Labour, but insists that Jews themselves must be exempted from that charge – to do otherwise would be, of itself, antisemitic.

It is ludicrous to suggest that Jews are, by nature, incapable of acting in bad faith, or with an “ulterior motive or hidden agenda”, though it would indeed be blatantly antisemitic to claim that such behaviour is peculiar to, or typical of, Jews.

A survey of British Jews in 2015 found that 71% support the establishment of a Palestinian state, and 75% regard the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank as “a major obstacle to peace”. This is good news, but it follows that a significant minority oppose the two-state solution, and support the settlement programme. Some will be alarmed at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, becoming prime minister. Surely it is possible that some might be prepared to exploit this issue to undermine him?

Mr Freedland also argues that antisemitism is a unique form of racism as it embodies the belief that “Jews are the secret masters of the universe, pulling the strings that shape world events”. This is true, but in this respect it has something in common with Islamophobia. There is much fearmongering about the threat of “Islamification”, and, as Pankaj Mishra has observed (A culture of fear, Review, 15 August 2009), resurgent far-right groups throughout Europe have “repackaged their foundational antisemitism, and now accuse Muslims rather than Jews of secretly conspiring to control the world”.
Pete Winstanley
Durham

 

As a Jewish member of the Labour party I am confused. Is a good Jew someone who supports austerity and privatisation and a bad Jew someone who cares about poverty, injustice, education, the NHS and social care (Corbyn defends celebrating passover with anti-Zionist Jewish group after rebuke, 4 April)? If so, the Labour party must be full of us bad Jews. And these are the reasons why we should all vote Labour in the local and national elections.
Liza Dresner
London

 

Jeremy Corbyn is a guest at a local leftwing Jewish group’s Passover seder. That apparently is more confirmation of his antisemitism. His attendance is highlighted by Guido Fawkes and rightwing groups strongly opposed to Corbyn’s leftwing policies. That apparently shows that there is no political stirring. The matter receives more media attention than the Gaza/Israel border conflict (At least 15 Palestinians die as Israel responds to protest, 31 March). That apparently shows how fine our media’s reports, objectivity and sense of priorities are.
Peter Cave
London

 

As Jewish Labour party members in Islington North we know from experience that our MP, Jeremy Corbyn – a strong believer in human rights – respects and values minority communities here, including our Jewish one. We are sure that the same applies to his leadership of the Labour party.

We are dismayed by unbalanced media reporting ahead of the local elections of allegations of antisemitism against Jeremy. We believe this partly results from his legitimate criticism of Israel’s cruel and racist treatment towards its Palestinian and Bedouin populations. This is because one definition of antisemitism includes criticism of the Israeli state as racist. We reject that definition. Indeed, many Israelis criticise actions of their state.

Any genuine antisemites and racists among the 600,000 members of the Labour party should be challenged and, if necessary, expelled. The recommendations in the Chakrabarti report will greatly help deal with such abuse.

We dissociate ourselves from the accusations of antisemitism made against Jeremy by the Board of Jewish Deputies and some Labour MPs. We confirm our confidence and support for Jeremy as MP and as a future prime minister of this country.
Jenny Kassman Finsbury Park branch
Julia Bard St George’s branch
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz Junction branch
Louisa S Kaplin Junction branch
Julian Lousada Highbury East branch
Sue Lukes Highbury East branch
Professor Mica Nava St George’s branch
Jenny Richardson Tollington branch
David Rosenberg St George’s branch
Monika Schwartz Junction branch
Professor Lynne Segal Highbury East branch
Professpr Annabelle Sreberny Highbury East branch
Ruth Steigman St George’s branch
Annette Thomas St George’s branch
Dr Gillian Yudkin St George’s branch
Professor John S Yudkin St George’s branch

 

Criticism of Israel and antisemitism

Stephen Sedley and John Spencer take issue with the Israeli ambassador

The Israeli ambassador’s letter (6 April) is a good example of how Israel and its apologists seek to dismiss legitimate criticism by conflating it with antisemitism.

Rather than acknowledge, much less deal with, the grounds on which Israel faces widespread  and justified criticism – including the illegal settlements on Palestinian land, the military occupation of the West Bank, and now the shooting of unarmed civilians in Gaza – Mr Regev, by denouncing what he calls “the obsessional and irrational hatred of the Jewish state”, seeks to characterise Israel’s critics – who include many Jews – as antisemites.

Mr Regev and those he represents perhaps need to understand that it is possible to recognise and defend the state of Israel as a legal entity, with all that this entails in terms of its sovereignty and integrity, without remaining silent about its abuses of human rights and of international law. These are the real elephants in the room.
Stephen Sedley
Oxford

 

Mark Regev says: “When Zionists are portrayed as a sinister and malevolent influence on British democracy, we see a modern manifestation [of antisemitism].” In 2017, Shai Masot, a political officer at the Israeli embassy, was caught on film offering to help “take down” Alan Duncan MP, a well-known supporter of Palestinian rights. Masot also spoke of his efforts to set up pro-Israel groups including a proposed Young Labour Friends of Israel. People can make up their own minds whether this was “sinister” or “malevolent”. But it does appear that Masot was being paid by Israel to exert covert influence on British democracy under diplomatic cover. Regev apologised at the time for what Masot had done but now seems to have changed his tune.
John Spencer